Monday, March 24, 2008

Our Easter Outfits?

The Hulk and a pirate in their Easter best!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

At bat at Albert Field

I ended up not missing the 2nd game of the season while on my spring training trip. It was postponed due to weather conditions.

This picture was from the Lady Bugs versus Surfer Girls on Saturday, March 15th.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Spring Training Rankings

On the trip home, Jamie and I decided to rank the stadiums in 3 categories, 1) spring training experience (proximity to players, autographs, nostalgia), 2) best ballparks (look and feel of ballpark, concessions, souveniers) and 3) major league prospects. We then combined the rankings to determine the overall best spring training team visited during the trip (lowest score being the best). Here are the rankings.

Spring Training Experience
1. Los Angeles Dodgers, Holman Stadium (Dodgertown), Vero Beach
2. Cleveland Indians, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven
3. Pittsburgh Pirates, McKechnie Field, Bradenton
T4. Philadelphia Phillies, Bright House Networks Field, Clearwater
T4. Toronto Blue Jays, Knology Park, Dunedin
6. Tampa Bay Rays, Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburgh
7. New York Yankees, Legends Field, Tampa
8. Florida Marlins, Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter

1. Philadelphia Phillies, Bright House Networks Field, Clearwater
2. Pittsburgh Pirates, McKechnie Field, Bradenton
3. New York Yankees, Legends Field, Tampa
4. Florida Marlins, Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter
T5. Toronto Blue Jays, Knology Park, Dunedin
T5. Tampa Bay Rays, Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburgh
7. Los Angeles Dodgers, Holman Stadium (Dodgertown), Vero Beach
8. Cleveland Indians, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven

Major League Prospects
1. Pittsburgh Pirates, McKechnie Field, Bradenton
2. New York Yankees, Legends Field, Tampa
3. Philadelphia Phillies, Bright House Networks Field, Clearwater
4. Toronto Blue Jays, Knology Park, Dunedin
5. Los Angeles Dodgers, Holman Stadium (Dodgertown), Vero Beach
6. Cleveland Indians, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven
7. Florida Marlins, Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter
8. Tampa Bay Rays, Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburgh

Overall Combined Rankings
1. Pittsburgh Pirates, McKechnie Field, Bradenton
2. Philadelphia Phillies, Bright House Networks Field, Clearwater
3. New York Yankees, Legends Field, Tampa
4. Los Angeles Dodgers, Holman Stadium (Dodgertown), Vero Beach
5. Toronto Blue Jays, Knology Park, Dunedin
6. Cleveland Indians, Chain of Lakes Park, Winter Haven
7. Florida Marlins, Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter
8. Tampa Bay Rays, Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburgh

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The end of the road...

At 8:30 pm on Saturday, March 8th the 2008 Spring Training expedition concluded.

1123 miles later (very close to my estimated guess of 1100 prior to the trip) we safely returned to Jacksonville. We had a great time, saw some neat parks and look forward to another spring training experience down the road.

I will be posting our rankings of the parks in 3 categories in a day or so...we had to have something to do on the trip home. The parks will be rated by the spring training experience (access to players, practice, autographs and atmosphere), best ballparks and major league prospects.

Until then, don't forget to move your clocks forward tonight.

On the road heading home...

Jamie's New Discovery...

...He had the coffee a few times and added a donut the last time after the Tigers/Blue Jays game.

And that's a wrap...

8 baseball games minus 1 rain out, 1 hockey game and 1 week later and it is done.

Blue Jays score 1 run in the 8th to beat the Tigers 4 - 3 on a bright sunny, windy and chilly day

Now to figure out the best way from Dunedin to I-275 for the trek home.

Oh yeah, we have to find a Dunkin Donuts.

Top of the 9th

Home team is winning so this could be the last three outs of the trip. Boys of Summer is playing on the PA.

Today's attendance

Announced as 5510...a sellout. Top of the 7th with the score tied 3 - 3. We are now shaded by the roof so it now feels much cooler.
2:53 pm

The last game

Detroit Tigers @ Toronto Blue Jays from Knology Park in Dunedin. High temp is in the mid 60s with gusty winds. Wind is blowing out to left center. Sitting in the sun feels much warmer. Our seats are down the right field line. About 1/3 of the way down.

We've already seen a couple homers in the second inning. One by Mike Hessman and Scott Rolen.

Small, nondescript park. Looks like there is a full house on hand.

Dunedin appears to have a small, old town feel to it.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Game 7 Cancelled.

And then the rain finally came. The game was officially canceled around 7:55 pm. Oh well, at least we get a mug! And we will have to get the form to complete to request a future spring training game...for this year of course. Not sure how much good that will do us.

Fireworks before the game...not a good sign.

We were treated to the first fireworks display in McKechnie Field history.

Tarp Picture

Recurring theme of late...

First ever night game at McKechnie Field

Cincinnati Reds @ Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton. Both teams have split squads as they played each other in Sarasota this afternoon. Game time was set for 7:05 pm for the first night game in McKechnie Field history. But right now the tarp is on the field waiting for a band of thunderstorms heading this way. It is 7:38 and it has rained yet. We could be done with the festivities and into the 3rd inning by now.

The Pirates have trained here for 40 years.

We received a commemorative mug upon entering the park tonight.

Nice old, stadium with a great atmosphere. We are sitting on row 17 almost directly behind home plate. It is covered so if it does rain we should stay dry at least until we leave.

I visited the Pirates facility here back in the early 90s and they have done a lot of improvements since. That day the team was on the road and a lot of starters stayed behind. It was back the last time Pittsburgh was good. I watched the players hit in the batting cages that day. I took a picture of Doug Drabek and obtained autographs from Jose Lind, Doug Drabek, Bobby Bonillia and Barry Bonds. There is a story to go with that one. I actually have two autographs from Bonds that day. He didn't like his first one, scribbled it out and then luckily (I guess) signed again. It was the only one he signed while walking to his car. There were only about 6 - 8 people wanting him to sign, but he couldn't spend 3 minutes.

Now it is 7:46 rain, no game. We could be heading into the fourth inning.

And that's the ballgame...

No rain, beautiful day. Astros win 9 - 5 over the Yankees.

Now on to Bradenton for the Cincinnati Reds @ Pittsburgh Pirates and the first ever night game at McKenchie Field. Game time is 7:05 pm. Hopefully we will stay dry as rain is in the forecast. But so was it for today


10,524 for today although that is obviously tickets sold not actual. But it is a large crowd.

Picture is of A-Rod's AB.

Score is tied 5 - 5 with the Astros batting in the top of the 7th.

More Yankee starters...

Robinson Cano started at 2B and Jorge Posada just entered the game for A-Rod at DH.

Foul ball alley...

The score is tied 2 - 2 in the top of the 5th. We have had about 4 foul balls come in our general direction.

Andy Pettite started the game and received a nice reception when announced and when leaving with 2 outs in the 3rd.

Mariano Rivera pitched a very quick 4th inning.

Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Melky Cabrera started. No big names made the trip from Kissimmee for the Astros.

Game 6: Houston Astros @ New York Yankees

Astros @ Yankees from Legends Field in Tampa today. Picture is from Monument Park which displays all the Yankees retired numbers the same as Yankee Stadium. this is the largest stadium. It seats 10,000 and has the same field dimensions as Yankee Stadium. It's going to be a warm one...over 80 but a strong breeze blowing. We are in section 219 about 1/3 of the way down the left field line.

Howard (a friend of mine from Tampa) is joining us for today's game.

The story behind the suite

As noted in the previous posts today, we ended up in a suite at today's game. Here's how that happened.

We went to this restaurant/diner that it open for breakfast and lunch). The name of the place is Lenny's. It is just off US 19 in Clearwater. It was recommended by a friend of mine who lives in Tampa. So we get to Lenny's around 10 am. There are people waiting, but as we walk up to get our name on the wait list and say there are 2 of us, the host said we could sit at the bar right away. So that is what we did.

Lenny's is a neat place with lots of Phillies memorabilia. It is about a mile from the ballpark. As we are finishing out food, an elderly woman sits in the last seat at the bar next to Jamie. All the staff know her and Jamie says to me that he has to find out who this woman is. So he asks. She replies that she owns the restaurant. Her name is Ms. Judy.

A conversation ensues with us telling her we are going to see the game. She asks where we are from and we tell her Baton Rouge and Jacksonville. Jamie then mentions that he grew up in Biloxi and I reply the same. She then says she loves us guys since Biloxi is her place. She goes to the casinos every 3 months and will be going in another month. Lenny was her husband and he started the restaurant. Her son, Dan, now runs it. They moved to Clearwater 27 years ago and Lenny passed away 16 years ago. Ms. Judy is originally from New York City. The restaurant also caters breakfast, lunch and dinner for the Phillies and Blue Jays during spring training.

Jamie then went to pay his bill and during that time, Ms. Judy says they have a suite at the stadium and invites us to it. She says she will give us her son's number and we will need to call him when we are ready to come up. So after getting our picture taken with Ms. Judy, we get her son's number and then Hank's who is the person who handles things at the suite. We also saw one of 4 or 5 clocks on the wall which is set to Biloxi time. They also put "interesting" signs on the marquee (as you will see).

The last neat thing was that Lenny's girls (wait staff) have breakfast platters named after them. Jamie had the Lorraine and we found out later that she was our waitress. And she is the one who took the picture of us with Ms. Judy.

So that is the story about how we ended up in the suite.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Game is called...

At 3:08...6752 in attendance. Rays officially win in 5 innings 6 - 4.
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And then the skies opened up again...

We are changing the Rays name to the Rains. The Rays are the only team we are seeing twice and it has rained on them both times...and with lightning and thunder included this time.

5 innings have been completed with the Rays leading the Phillies 6 - 4. Much more offense then other games so far with 3 homers including a leadoff homer to start the game by the Phillies.

Good to be in the suite...

It's been raining off and on for an inning or two. Saw one lightning bolt but the game continues for now.

The view from the luxury suite...

We've sat in the outfield, we've sat in the berm and we've been standing room only. Today was scheduled for the berm but here we are sitting in the suite just to the 1st base side of home plate with food and drinks included. Not bad for a $10 ticket.

Oh yeah it's the Tampa Bay Rays @ Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater. Bright House Field is by far the nicest stadium we have visited so far. The stadium opened in 2004 and still looks new.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Good eatin' BBQ

Hickory Hollow in Ellenton is excellent home cooking bbq. We planned to try it Monday night on our way to St. Pete from Jupiter but it was closed. So after today's game we decided to head there with a little route detour instead of sitting in Tampa rush hour traffic on I-4 and I-275. It was an excellent decision. And there was a rooster and a peacock in the parking lot. There also appeared to be an early bird discount.

Half way through our schedule...

The Braves beat the Indians 4 - 1. Dean lost a no-hitter for Atlanta with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th. The hit was a hard line drive single off the wall in right field.

3:35 pm 3-5-2008

Winter Haven's local, Irish, family sports pub

Game 4

Atlanta Braves @ Cleveland Indians I Winter Haven. Game is just underway. Kelly Johnson reached first for Atlanta to start the game on what should have been an error but was ruled a hit. That is a recurring theme here in spring training. They must not like to score anything an error. Very warm day with an almost cloudless sky. And since we are about 80 miles inland, a much calmer wind. This is the Indians last year in Florida as they move to Arizona for spring training next year. Chain of Lakes Park is an old style venue which means they will not get another team back here in the future.

1:26 pm, 3-5-2008

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Hockey Game

Penguins score with 2:47 left in the final period to take a 1 - 0 and add an empty net goal with 5 seconds to play to win 2 - 0. Fast, flowing game that was very entertaining. Hockey is much better without all the stoppages they used to have. I think there was only 1 icing call.

9:54 pm, 3-4-2008

Johnny Damon is in the arena...

Jamie booed and said he is ready to leave...something about a traitor with him leaving the Red Sox to sign with the Yankees a few years ago. J/K on the leaving part.

First NHL Game Ever...

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Tampa Bay Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum is the first NHL game for Jamie and me. As an added bonus, Sidney Crosby, the star of the NHL is back with Pittsburgh after missing about 6 - 8 weeks with an injury. His return was announced earlier today.

The picture is of the opening face-off.

And then the rain started...

With the Twins winning 3-0 in the 5th inning. Well since we have a hockey game tonight we aren't going to wait out the rain delay. But it was nice seeing the last year of Al Lang Field also named Progress Energy Park. Right on the bay and the Rays want to build a new stadium on the site. They had a home plate painted in the outfield where it would be in the new stadium.

We were asked and agreed to complete a verbal 2 page survey on the spring training experience.

And we just heard they called the game so at least we won't miss any action.

View from the 6th floor balcony

If you ever have to make the trip from Jupiter to St. Pete on the 2-lane state roads, don't. There is essentially 2 small towns and one dot on the map for a 3 hour drive.

We are at the Tradewinds Sandpiper Resort on St. Pete Beach. Gotta love the deals you can get on The picture is of the Gulf from our room.

We were watching Mike & Mike this morning when they broke the news with Chris Mortenson about Brett Favre's retirement (sometime between 9 and 9:30).

I am tired of being congested.

It is overcast and very windy today. Hopefully they will get some of the baseball game in before any t-storms arrive.

Well we are headed to Al Lang Field in St. Pete to see the Twins @ Rays today.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Game 2 is in the books

Attendance 8141...4th largest crowd since the Marlins have been at Roger Dean Stadium. Marlins win 3-2. Red Sox only managed 3 hits. There were a lot of walks by both teams.

We were SRO the whole game so the back is very tired. And I'm continuing to fight some congestion and sinus pressure that started last Thursday. Much warmer today. Maybe 80 and not as strong or constant a breeze as yesterday. And the cloud cover has dissipated so no rain and sunny skies prevailed.

We now hit the road again for our trek to the west coast (of Florida). We will be staying in St. Pete Beach. Probably should take 3 - 3 1/2 hours.

Tom Lasorda Signing Autographs

Picture from Sunday.

World Champs Today

In Jupiter today for the Boston Red Sox @ Florida Marlins. Nice day although warmer than yesterday and more clouds. Forecast is for scattered showers.

Stayed in Stuart last night at a Hojo. Jamie is astonished with all the Dunkin Donuts around. And people can't drive...they pull out trying to cross the road and upon realizing they can't make it, they just stop blocking traffic.

Can't get very close to the players here. Big difference from Dodgertown yesterday. Red Sox brought a few of their core players...Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Alex Cora, Javier Lopez and Kyle Snyder (who will be the starting pitcher). Oh yeah, the Marlins are here too.

Picture is of Kevin Youkilis taking BP.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

And that's the ballgame

Beautiful day in Vero Beach, probably mid 70s with a constant ocean breeze. Home team wins as the Dodgers out score the Mets 5-3...scratch that as the Mets score 3 runs in the top of the 9th to win 6-5. The Dodgers had 2 errors that were scored hits and the subs let it get away. #52 for the Dodgers doesn't need to worry about making the major league team. 8200 in attendance.

A couple former Jacksonville Suns (Dodgers double A team) were playing. James Loney who played very well and Matt Kemp. Former Brave Andruw Jones had an early rbi double but also a couple K's. Torre had him batting 3rd...don't understand that one.

NY Mets @ LA Dodgers

Left Jacksonville just before 8 AM, arrived at Vero Beach - "Dodgertown" around 10:45 AM.. Definitely a great spring training venue. Very close to the players. Autographs from some players from when I was growing up...Danny Darwin, Charlie Hough and Tom Lasorda. Saw Don Mattingly warming up, Joe Torre. Nice practice fields which Jamie went on taking a picture of Donny Baseball and was told by security (elderly gentleman) that "you know you're not supposed to be in there" multiple times.

Game just started...Steve Garvey threw out the first pitch and did infield at 1st base before the top of the first inning. Then James Loney came out. Garvey is promoting a new book.